4 Jazz Shows You Should See This Weekend: November 17-20

This week's Jazz Setlist: Real Jazz Rising, Christian Sands, Noah Preminger, and Stanley Clarke.
Noah Preminger. Photograph by Jimmy Katz.

Friday, November 17

If you have ever dropped in on the Mid Atlantic Jazz Festival up in Rockville every President’s Day weekend, you know that it operates under the motto/manifesto “taking a stand for real jazz.” That’s Paul Carr’s ideology, a vision of straightahead, swing and blues and ballads, meat-and-potatoes jazz as The Thing Itself. You don’t have to agree with that rigid vision of jazz (I don’t) to appreciate that Carr defends it with damn fine music. That includes the festival itself as well as his own bands. Who can argue with Carr on tenor sax, Hope Udobi on piano, Michael Bowie on bass, C.V. Dashiell on drums, and the great Alison Crockett on vocals? The name Carr has given to this band is—wait for it—Real Jazz Rising. And it certainly is. They perform at 6 PM; at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I Street, Southwest. $5.

Saturday, November 18

I first encountered Christian Sands in January 2011, when he was performing at the Harlem memorial service for his mentor, Dr. Billy Taylor. The luxurious piano textures, combined with a stunningly original approach to syncopation, that the then 21-year-old pianist put into Taylor’s “A Bientot” told me what much of the jazz world already knew: This kid was one to watch. Nearly seven years later, he’s an essential partner to another virtuoso named Christian, bassist Christian McBride. And this year, he released the beautiful, polished, but nevertheless venturesome album Reach, which does. If there’s a sheen of smooth-jazz in some places (“Reaching for the Sun”), he makes up for it with fleet lines and that special syncopation (“Armando’s Song”). Thoughts and emotions run so deep in Sands’s playing that we might even say that he’s already fulfilled the promise of his youth and is going on to make more promises today. Christian Sands performs at 7 and 9 PM in the Kennedy Center’s KC Jazz Club, 2700 F Street, Northwest. $35.

Sunday, November 19

It’s not exactly rare for a jazz musician coming through town to grab a pick-up group of local players as his band for an evening. (Hell, it’s the backbone of the business.) It’s maybe a little more rare, though, for a musician to come into a town and have a readymade band already living there and waiting to join him. Noah Preminger is one of these. He’s a very young saxophonist—just 31—who was a teenage protégé of Dave Liebman, a saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master with a knack for shaping young protégés, and a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, which imbued him with its trademark refusal to bow to jazz or musical conventions. And when he’s in DC, he’s the co-leader of a quartet with ever-experimental drummer Jeff Cosgrove, also featuring Harry Appelman on piano and Mark Lysher on bass. They perform at 8 and 10 PM at Twins Jazz, 1344 U Street, Northwest. $10.

Monday, November 20

There was a time, long about forty years ago, when it could just be assumed that the old 1963 hit “Mr. Bassman” was about Stanley Clarke. In the ’70s, the badass bass player could be a star: your Larry Grahams and Bootsy Collinses, your Paul McCartneys and Geddy Lees and Jaco Pastoriuses. Clarke stood at the top of that game: He was a sideman like Graham and Collins and Pastorius, but he was also a star in his own right. He was not the hitmaking songwriter or singer that McCartney or Lee were, but he still cut one of the pillars of jazz fusion with 1975’s School Days, still a must-have. Clarke was and is an astonishing virtuoso who makes melody and groove indistinguishable from each other. And neither his chops nor his smarts have diminished in the four decades since he was Mr. Bassman. Stanley Clarke performs at 7:30 at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria. $45.

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Michael J. West is a jazz journalist and critic who lives in D.C. He began contributing to Washingtonian in 2017. He is also a contributor to the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, JazzTimes, and Downbeat. His work has appeared in Slate, the Village Voice, Bandcamp, and NPR.org.